Where we've been thus far: Ninh Bin (Trang An), Hue, and Hoi An
Hoang Long Riverside Homestay
Overall thoughts of Vietnam:
-The people are super friendly and helpful. Most speak English and they LOVE Fay. There aren't many Western kids here that are he age. They call her beautiful and baby and frequently stroke her face, head, and back. She's not a huge fan but she's getting used to the notoriety.
-Fay has tried more new foods than we thought- oysters, shrimp on a stick, hot dog on a stick..basically any meat on sticks, and every kind of noodle dish. She still misses Mac and Cheese though.
-We've been surprised how few mosquitos there are here. We're taking our malaria pills just in case but we've collectively only been bitten about 3 times. David is usually a mosquito buffet but the people have kept the mosquitoes at bay here.
- We've gotten into a rhythm with our days. We go out and explore in the mornings when it's a little cooler- only low 90's. Then we go back to get out of the heat and work in the afternoons. Fay does school work (including learning math through BlackJack- she's loving card games), and David and I read, plan for our next stops, and write in our journals. At night we head out for boat trips, to visit night markets, and to eat dinner when the heat has subsided a little.
-Since we've visited many temples, Fay has learned how to prayer at the temples and she often prayers to her ancestor Fay (David's grandmother who she's named after). It is beautiful to see this connection.
Here's whats happened this past week:
After a very hectic week in Hanoi, we found a reprieve in the Hoang Long Riverside Homestay (near Ninh Binh a former capital of Vietnam). The above picture is the view from our room. It felt magical to be surrounded by the limestone karsts (the name of these rock formations- geology lesson check!) and on a slow flowing river. I was in need of a dose of nature and Fay needed a pool. We also made some Vietnamese friends who had kids Fay could play with and we shared out last night meal with them.
Nearby was the first National Park of Vietnam called Cuc Phuong which we wanted to check out. We visited a Moon bear sanctuary, a primate rehabilitation center, and a cave where early man lived 7500 years ago.
We also did a bamboo boat ride in Trang An for 3 hours. We got to go through caves, visit ancient Pagodas and temples, and see all kinds of giant Koi swimming around. Fay is still not a fan of caves, especially when bats flew by. She wanted out!
A Moon bear (aka Malayan black bear) that was saved from a Bear bile farm. There's a black market where people sell bear bile for Chinese medicine and the bears live in horrible conditions. However this refuge was amazing. We saw so many happy and playful bears.
We also saw a Primate rehabilitation center. These animals are saved from the black market and then able to be released back into the wild. We saw Gibbons (above) which Fay said she wished she could be and Langurs (below) all native to Vietnam.
We hiked up a STEEP hill to the Cave of Prehistoric man. It was nice and cool inside and a very spacious cave. We all agreed we would've lived there as cave people.
We took a Bamboo boat ride in Trang An. Fay got to paddle and we got to go through some long caves that led to beautiful Buddhist temples. Very impressive ancient buildings.
On our final day, Fay and I made some friends by the pool. The dad was in the Vietnamese Air Force and spoke English well. He told us that is family was vacationing at the homestay and Fay became fast friends with his niece. Then we shared a meal together of local Vietnamese food which included a couple of goat dishes and crispy rice cakes. Yum!
The dad (on the left) was going to travel to San Antonio Texas for a US Air Force training there for a few months. Maybe we'll cross paths in the US!
It was time to say goodbye to Ninh Binh and head to Hue by overnight train. Fay loved the bunk bed lay out and train snacks.
After 11 hours on the train we made it to Hue, the former imperial capital of the country. We visited the Emperors Palace, hung out at the night market by our hotel, and Fay got to play at an indoor KidsZone with a ninja warrior course. I got to celebrate my 43rd bday with a massage and presents from David and Fay there too.
Here's a picture of the outside of the palace but it was hard to capture it's immensity and beauty in single shots.
I loved the royal library. It was so ornate and cool inside, even though outside was a hot mess. You can probably see my sweat stains if you zoom in.
Fay did meet a royal robot dressed in traditional clothes.
Celebrated my bday with cake and a new Vietnamese outfit. So cool and breezy!
We explored the local HUGE Dong Ba market which sold everything. We ate Hue royal rice cakes and meat on a stick there. We had a great time over all and I loved how the city was very relaxed with wide streets and sidewalks. The river was beautiful too and not many Western tourists around.
Highlights included a dragon boat ride on the Perfume River to a pagoda. There we encountered Buddhist monks playing Badminton! If you want to see a video of this, let me know and I'll send you a link to this weeks pictures which include the video. Its pretty impressive how competitive but fun the game was.
Dragon boat to the Pagoda. We almost saw the full sunset but clouds blocked us. Still captured this view of the perfume river.
After 4 days in Hue, it was time to jump on a three hour bus and head to Hoi An, a beach town that has a beautiful old city inspired by Japanese and Chinese architecture.
Fay immediately jumped in the hotel pool which was in a gorgeous location near the beach.
The first night we headed out to explore the old city and night market. It happened to be a full moon night so many people were out releasing lanterns and taking boat rides. We'll do one of those tonight for the 2nd full moon evening celebration.
Signing off for now to jump in the pool as temps are reaching mid 90's. Fay keeps asking me to join in her swimming games.
Hope all is well and that hurricanes aren't too disastrous for the East coast people!